Dec 29, 2017
by Elizabeth Slater
Research is an important part of any business, marketing or customer-relations plan. Even when a plan has been completed for a while it’s important to continue market research to discover what has changed and whether you are still on the right track. Things change constantly. The area in which you are located may have changed. The demographics of the neighborhood and what your customers are looking for may have changed in the last few years. While you have noticed the changes your business may not reflect these changes.
Your marketing plan may also need some adjustment. Marketing has changed dramatically over the last few years with the advent of email, social media, chatbots and the like. Who knows what is coming next. It may also be the case that your customers now want to be contacted in different ways. How many prefer email to direct mail or text to email. If customers are contacted in the ways that are most convenient for them they are more likely to read and respond to the information you send them.
Before you start your research into possibly updating your business, marketing or customer needs strategy, there are some things you need to know.
What changes have you seen since you did your last research?
Which customers are you targeting?
What new approaches are you not using that might be helpful?
Make a list of questions that you want to be answered. For example, the knowledge you gain from marketing research could:
Attract more customers
Increase sales to Millennials (or Gen X or Boomers)
Present products to a broader audience
Discover what your customers want
Get information about your competitors (and how are they attracting customers)
There are many reasons to conduct research and these are just a few.
Again, make a list of how you want to use this information in your business. Will it drive:
The sales direction for the next year or two
How you go about attracting new customers
How it will influence your product mix
Whether you are focused on the right target market(s)
It’s important to focus on the market segment that would be most interested in your products. I speak to many companies who answer the question of, “Who are your customers?” with the answer, “Everyone.” Try to be more specific by looking at the mix of customer you have now and discovering how you can increase the numbers. Focus particularly on your best customers and see what the similarities are possibly in age, location, buying habits, etc.
You also want to research your market area; that is where the majority of your customers are coming from.
Do you see mostly local people, who may become regular customers?
Are your customers mostly visitors to the area, people you will probably only see once?
The answer to these questions should affect the way you sell.
Primary market research:
Observation of customers, yours and your competitors
Focus groups: Ask current customers why they do business with you
Surveys: Keep surveys fairly short (3-20 questions) and offer an incentive for completing and returning the survey
Secondary market research
If you belong to a trade association, ask for any research they may have on the subject you are researching.
Trade publications can be a big help to your research. There are also government departments that can help you in research. The Small Business Administration can provide lots of information. Census reports can help if you are thinking of expansion by pointing out growing markets.
When analyzing results objectivity is key. Accept what people have to say whether you like it or not. Also consider how the responses apply to your marketing and what you can use from the data to bring in more customers.
Research can be time consuming, but it also is well worth the time you spend. The easiest way to start is to talk to current customers:
How they like to be informed about sales, specials, new products or events.
Give them options of email, text, social media or even old-fashioned flyers.
Make sure you have all the pertinent information to reach customers in their preferred way.
Make sure your customers addresses, emails and phone numbers are up to date.
Ask customers about their likes and dislikes, wants and needs to ensure that your product line is up to date.
Add information to each customer record, so you have a more complete picture of who they are and how you can best serve them.
Continuing to research your market can help you in many different ways. By focusing on how you are meeting your customers needs you can stay successful and profitable for years to come.
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